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What is social distancing and why is it important in the fight against COVID-19?

Last Updated Mar 20, 2020 at 12:29 pm PDT


Social distancing is exactly what it sounds like: distancing ourselves from other people

Infectious disease expert says social distancing is the best shot we have at dealing with COVID-19

Dr. Isaac Bogosh says there are still many things we can continue to do to maintain a normal and healthy life

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Social-distancing: it’s the phrase of the week, but some people just don’t seem to be getting the message.

Just hours after B.C.’s top doctor renewed calls for people to keep their distance from others to slow the spread of COVID-19, Metro Vancouver’s beaches were packed with groups of people taking in the sunset Thursday night.

“It’s not optional and we will be watching it,” Dr. Bonnie Henry said after announcing 40 new cases of the virus and another death. “The things that we are doing today are going to save us in the next two weeks.”

So what exactly is social distancing and why is it so important during the COVID-19 pandemic?

“Social distancing is exactly that: distancing ourselves from other people,” says Dr. Isaac Bogosh, infectious disease physician and scientist based out of Toronto General Hospital and the University of Toronto.

“It’s spreading out, it means not going out to restaurants or bars, it’s not going out to concerts. It’s working from home, it’s not having, you know, a bunch of people over at your home when you are working from home.”

Related video: Social distancing could be in place for months, Trudeau says

Bogosh says social distancing by all Canadians is the best shot the country has at curbing the spread of the virus, adding it’s the difference between turning out like Italy (which has over 42,000 cases of the virus and over 3,400 deaths) or like South Korea (which has over 8,000 cases and fewer than 100 deaths).

“It doesn’t mean we’re going to come out unscathed, not at all. We’re gonna feel the sting, but it’s a matter of how much of a sting we feel,” he adds. “At an individual level, [social distancing] can reduce one’s risk of getting an infection and certainly at a community level, this really works to decrease the spread of an infection in a population.”

While some have been foggy on what constitutes as social distancing, Bogosh says there are still many things we can continue to do to maintain a normal and healthy life.

“Of course it’s okay to go outside, of course it’s okay to go run around, and of course it’s okay to go walk your dog,” he says.

“But it’s not okay to go to, you know, a crowded playground with your kids and have your kids climb all over all the playground material with the other kids. It’s not okay to go take your dog to, you know, a dogpark where there’s you know 50 other people and 50 other dogs and everyone’s petting each others dogs.”

Bogosh stresses how bad the COVID-19 outbreak gets in Canada is up to us.

“The choice is really ours,” he says. “If we truly adhere to these guidelines and we strictly adhere to these guidelines, we’re gonna have a much easier time with this infection.”